Oak Ridge National Laboratory


News Release

Media Contact: Ron Walli (wallira@ornl.gov)
Communications and External Relations


ORNL joins computing elite, surpasses 1 teraflop

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., June 20, 2000 — Recently acquired supercomputers from IBM and Compaq have made Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) home to the most powerful unclassified computers in the nation and are advancing its leadership role in computational science.

The recent expansion of the IBM RS/6000 SP supercomputer pushes it past the 1 trillion calculations per second (1 teraflop) mark. It and the recently acquired Compaq AlphaServer SC system now give ORNL more than 1.5 teraflops computing speed. Later this year, the Compaq system is scheduled to be upgraded to 900 billion calculations per second (900 gigaflops), further enhancing ORNL's capabilities.

"These new supercomputers allow researchers to solve problems in a virtual environment in areas that span the globe - from transportation to medicine to materials," said Thomas Zacharia, director of the Computer Science and Mathematics Division. "The IBM and Compaq machines are allowing us to tackle problems that couldn't be solved before."

The IBM machine, acquired by the Department of Energy's ORNL a year ago, has undergone two expansions - both ahead of schedule. The IBM computer is dedicated to a range of computational science research. The Compaq machine will be used primarily in the area of computer science, specifically for developing better tools for computational science researchers.

In coming months, researchers in the lab's Computer Science and Mathematics Division will be collaborating with Compaq personnel to optimize the large-scale research applications necessary to study global climate change, computational biology, automobile safety, materials and numerous other areas.

"The Compaq AlphaServer SC system provides significant computing power to help ORNL meet the awesome research challenges they face today," said Bill Blake, vice president of Compaq's high performance technology computing group. "The advances in computational science enabled by this system and our partnership with ORNL will lead to improved products and services that positively impact people's lives every day."

The IBM and Compaq provide DOE researchers with computing power more than 10 times what was offered by the Intel Paragon XP/S 150, which in 1995 was the fastest computer in the world. Together, the computers make ORNL a major resource for DOE's Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing program.

"Our computing capabilities open possibilities for new research and for new collaborations with universities, institutions and laboratories around the world," Zacharia said.

Powered by IBM-pioneered copper microprocessors, the RS/6000 SP accounts for 144 of the world's 500 most powerful supercomputers. Organizations rely on the SP to handle the wide spectrum of scientific applications as well as commercial workloads.

"The RS/6000 SP is the most powerful supercomputer in the world," said Peter Ungaro, IBM vice president, Scientific and Technical Computing. "IBM's superior technology and unmatched system architecture provide organizations with the performance and scalability needed to solve the most challenging scientific and commercial computing problems."

As part of ORNL's simulation initiative, the supercomputers will help researchers study structural materials by simulating their behavior in great detail. It will allow for the development of new materials and new manufacturing processes.

"The increased computational power opens new possibilities for modeling of complex systems, significant advances in computational biomechanics and its close integration with more traditional engineering disciplines," said Srdan Simunovic, a researcher in the Computer Science and Mathematics Division.

In the area of climate modeling, ORNL's John Drake notes that historically the best weather and climate predictions have been achieved at the centers with the most powerful computers.

"ORNL's emergence as the first terascale facility in the non-defense research community allows our researchers to remain competitive and effective in the international science community," Drake said. "The additional computational capability makes possible detailed regional predictions and to understand climate fluctuations, address impacts of climate variability and quantify the uncertainty inherent in climate predictions."

Similarly, the increased computing capabilities should help in the area of computational biology.

"With the imminent release of the completed draft human genome DNA sequences, this increased computing capability is critical," said Phil LoCascio of ORNL's Life Sciences Division. "This allows DOE and ORNL to maintain worldwide leadership in computational genome analysis."

Ultimately, this research will help in the screening, treatment and cure of many diseases. Other areas expected to benefit greatly include computational chemistry and physics.

ORNL is a DOE multiprogram research facility managed by UT-Battelle.